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Netflix’s ‘Our Father’: Film Explores Trauma Caused by Indiana Fertility Doctor Who Impregnated His Patients


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Jacoba Ballard was forced to take a 23andMe DNA test when she made a shocking discovery that would be the subject of a Netflix documentary.

It was 2014 and the Indiana woman who was donor-conceived was curious if she, an only child, had any half-siblings. Within eight years, the 43-year-old discovered she had at least 94 siblings.

At least seven of them lived within 25 miles of her. They all shared a biological father – fertility doctor Donald Cline – who artificially inseminated his patients with his own sperm without their consent or knowledge.

The story of Ballard’s discovery, as well as his half-siblings’ quest for justice, is the subject of “Our Father,” which is streaming now.

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Director Lucie Jourdan told Fox News Digital that filming began in 2017 after an avid Ballard was determined to share her story publicly in hopes of raising awareness of laws that can be passed to protect patients. But not all of the siblings were initially on board to share their accounts.

Jacoba Ballard’s life changed forever in 2014.
(Netflix © 2022)

“Jacoba was all for it, but we had to gain the trust of the other siblings,” explained Jourdan. “They were suspicious. We spent years making sure they felt comfortable with us as we listened to their stories and began to dig and investigate Cline ourselves. I needed tell this story to help Jacoba be heard. Yes, the story is about a fertility doctor, but it’s a story about consent for women. And that was my driving force in making the film.

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“Many of them were motivated to speak out by the fact that there were no laws to protect mothers,” Jourdan added. “It was incredibly brave of them to speak out, to share their stories and to identify this man. And I think his audacity in trying to silence them was also a motivating factor for them… This history is a warning.”

Court documents allege Cline told six adults believed to be his biological children that he had donated his own sperm about 50 times because he was trying to help his patients and did not have access to fresh sperm. The Indianapolis-based fertility doctor had told his patients that they received sperm from medical or dental residents or medical students and that no donor sperm had been used more than three times, according to court records.

Netflix’s ‘Our Father’: Film Explores Trauma Caused by Indiana Fertility Doctor Who Impregnated His Patients

Jacoba Ballard took a 23andMe DNA test to see if she had any siblings. The results left her amazed.
(Netflix © 2022)

Jourdan said we may never know the true motive behind Cline’s actions.

“I will honestly say the why never mattered in this story,” she explained. “His perspective doesn’t matter. It was always my intention to document the fallout from what he did to show how one can negatively affect the lives of so many people. I wanted withhold their stories… I believe it is sexual assault, sexual violation.”

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Shereen Farber, whose twin daughters were fathered by Cline, described how the disgraced doctor delivered his children.

Netflix’s ‘Our Father’: Film Explores Trauma Caused by Indiana Fertility Doctor Who Impregnated His Patients

Shereen and Mark Farber spoke about their traumatic experience.
(Netflix © 2022)

“She had this horrified look on her face saying, ‘How can you be mad when you have what you always wanted?'” Jourdan said. “But there has been such a psychological fallout that has impacted these families. It’s heartbreaking. Many parents are very worried about how their children are handling the news. The mothers have confided in each other and tried to get out of it.”

Jourdan described how several fathers were devastated by the news. She said only one was ready to be filmed to describe her experience.

“I think it shows you how traumatic this news is, that they couldn’t bring themselves to talk about it,” she said. “Parents have been wracked with so much guilt. There’s also shame.”

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Netflix’s ‘Our Father’: Film Explores Trauma Caused by Indiana Fertility Doctor Who Impregnated His Patients

Donald Cline has been described as a religious family man in his Indiana community.
(Netflix © 2022)

The documentary revealed how Cline was seen as a religious and devoted family man in his community. He was known for helping heterosexual couples who aspired to become parents. It is believed that he carried out his deeds in the 70s and 80s without repercussions. Many of the siblings, blond and blue-eyed, even wondered if Cline was trying to raise the “perfect Aryan clan” as a possible motive.

“The siblings were left in the dark,” Jourdan said. “When your reality is completely shattered, you’re looking for answers. I’m not going to comment on my opinion on that because, again, it doesn’t matter here. But I think they were trying to put it all back together But as one of the kids said in the documentary, “If he just told us why we wouldn’t need to have conspiracy theories to guide us.” And I think that’s really the purpose. He gave them nothing. So they frantically searched for answers. They are still suffering.

In 2017, Cline avoided jail time for lying about using his own sperm to impregnate up to dozens of women after telling them the donors were anonymous. Cline received a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice. No other charges were brought against him because Indiana law does not specifically prohibit fertility doctors from using their own sperm.

Netflix’s ‘Our Father’: Film Explores Trauma Caused by Indiana Fertility Doctor Who Impregnated His Patients

This September 12, 2016 booking photo provided by Marion County, Indiana shows Donald Cline. In December 2017, Cline received a one-year suspended sentence for lying when he denied being an involuntary patient sperm donor. During his sentencing, Cline said he was “very sorry for the pain my actions have caused”, but did not specify how often he was a sperm donor. According to court documents, he told Jacoba Ballard it was about 50 times.
(Marion County, Indiana via AP)

Cline was charged after lying to investigators and he faces up to three years in prison on each count. The charges stemmed from two confirmed cases of paternity. Cline, who retired in 2009, initially denied the allegations when he wrote to investigators, saying the women who filed the complaints were trying to slander him. He later admitted that he had lied. Cline only mentioned the two women who filed the complaint for the first time. He hasn’t discussed his decision to use his own sperm decades ago.

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In 2018, Cline surrendered her medical license to a state board that also barred her from seeking reinstatement. Jourdan said during the filming of “Our Father”, that she tried to contact Cline.

“He picked up the phone and abruptly hung up on us,” she said. “I have no idea what he or his family is thinking right now.”

Netflix’s ‘Our Father’: Film Explores Trauma Caused by Indiana Fertility Doctor Who Impregnated His Patients

The number of siblings continues to grow.
(Netflix © 2022)

Cline also did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

Since the release of ‘Our Father’, Jourdan said it’s likely the number of siblings will “continue to skyrocket” as the story has gone viral. She described how some of the siblings even grew closer and became “fiercely protective” of each other.

But, more importantly, there is a sense of relief that they are being heard. And now they hope the film will persuade Indiana lawmakers, as well as other legislatures across the country, to pass a measure that would make it a crime for a fertility doctor to use his own sperm. .

“I really hope things will change thanks to this film,” said Jourdan. “And I believe the laws are going to change. There’s no doubt that this is a sexual violation. This is about autonomy over one’s body. There’s outrage. And people are listening finally.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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